DC Public Schools will reopen Nov. 9 for the second term. That’s the good news that Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Oct. 5. The realistic news is that back-to-school with classmates and a certified teacher will be limited to only a few prioritized students at each school. Everyone else will continue the remote-learning option.
According to Principal Calvin Hooks, Hyde-Addison, Georgetown’s only public elementary school, located at 3219 O St. NW, will open only one classroom per grade on Nov. 9, with no more than 11 students in each class. “They will attend school four and a half days a week with a daily schedule similar to a typical school day,” Hooks wrote in the school’s Oct. 6 newsletter.
Hyde-Addison had opened its expanded school building — with the latest educational technology and safety features — to a historic number of students in September of 2019.
A second in-person option is called CARE: Canvas Academics and Real Engagement. It will offer “small-group in-person classrooms where students will have supervised care for the school day from a caring adult who is not their teacher,” according to DCPS. “Students will have the benefit of being with their peers at school but will participate in lessons virtually on a computer.” The CARE program begins the week of Nov. 16 for students in PK3 (a pre-kindergarten level) to first grade and the week of Nov. 30 for students in grades two through five.
Students will be selected at random for both in-person options based on current enrollment information, according to DCPS. “Students experiencing homelessness and those with more intensive needs will be given first priority.” Second priority will go to students who are receiving special education services or who are English learners and third priority to students who are designated ‘at-risk.’ Siblings in the same school will also receive preference. Last priority is: “All other enrolled students.” Children of DCPS teachers, however, are guaranteed a place in the CARE program.
“In order to be eligible for an in-person learning seat at a school, a student must have been enrolled in grades PK3 to five at that school by Oct. 5, 2020,” a DCPS spokesperson, passing on Hooks’s reponse, told The Georgetowner. “Enrolled students not meeting any of the priority criteria may be matched with an in-person learning seat if spaces remain. Those not initially matched with a seat will be placed on a waitlist. Non-priority group students will be waitlisted last, based on random number assignment. Schools will make offers off their waitlist in order.”
Families will be notified by Oct. 23 should in-person learning be available for their student and by Oct. 30 for CARE places.
While there isn’t an appeals process for families, according to DCPS, “school leaders may appeal to make no more than two seat offers per in-person learning classroom based on student need.”
“We recognize returning to school may not be the preference of every family,” Hooks wrote. And there remain questions regarding the in-person options. The ability to return to in-person school is staff dependent, according to DCPS, and at press time the availability of Washington Teachers’ Union teachers to return to the classroom was still unclear.
“The union wants DCPS to at least follow its school safety checklist before moving ahead with any kind of in-person instruction,” Union President Elizabeth Davis said after the Monday press conference. Davis claimed that the mayor’s Nov. 9 in-person school openings announcement was a complete surprise to the union. The WTU’s safety checklist includes availability of personal protective equipment (such as N95 masks), checked ventilation in facilities and general safety protocols.
“We are in the process of upgrading HVAC filters at all 80 elementary schools, and our operations team will be working with schools over the next four weeks to ensure buildings are prepared to safely welcome staff and students,” Bowser wrote in her mayoral newsletter on Oct. 9. “In addition to sanitizing and quarantining, the reporting and response protocol involves communicating to the entire school community should a teacher, student or staff member test positive.”